On #lobstergate, Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill:
We must remember it is crucial to critique the structures that keep enabling people like Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill to get away with having trans misogynist, transphobic and racist hate speech published in a newspaper with a supposed commitment to social justice. The sheer cronyism in the journalistic world, the way in which mass-media journalism has mutated into the PR arm of corporations, and the way in which it can and often is used to uphold the status quo, are all equally relevant to the problem.
Today it’s trans* women, tomorrow it’s Palestinians, asylum seekers, immigrants in general, women in general, the unemployed, the poor, and anyone else that doesn’t walk through the offices of a major news organisation as anything but the cleaning staff (who are not invited to the champagne dinners).
We must keep counteracting these kind of hateful tirades at every corner, particularly from those who present themselves as our allies in the struggle for a more fair society. Solidarity needs to be expanded among people from all walks of life, and we need to keep examining the overlapping issues of privilege/oppression in terms of race, in terms of disability, trans status, sexuality, gender and migrant status. But it is crucial that we remember the underlying systems of power, which continue to work against us, and which will look for us even in the safest of places.
Those same people who died for Moore’s right to offend also died for our right to offend Suzanne Moore by holding demos. It was an attempt to address this inequality of platform. Far from being threatening, it was a public attempt at holding people and institutions accountable for the wrongs they have committed. They probably do find this somewhat threatening, many being used to not having to hear criticism, particularly not as instantaneously as in the digital age. Yet it is a different threat entirely to the mainstream media closing ranks against an oppressed minority: this is where the harm came from, and it will continue to do so until they change.
It’s mighty disingenous of Suzanne Moore to claim to believe in free speech, yet continue to play the victim when those she upset hold her accountable. This, too, is free speech, it’s just words she doesn’t want to hear. She has the platform and the power to obfuscate the truth, while those she has harmed cannot so readily make their voices heard.
I also find it bizarre that intersectionality is supposed to be such a difficult concept to grasp. I’ve now seen several people argue that people are being asked to waste time trying to understand it when they could be devoting themselves directly to The Struggle. That’s like advising an army to go to war without wasting time on training. Anti-intellectualism is never pretty but in this case t borders on the ridiculous. The public is now largely familiar with the concept of people potentially being members of stigmatised groups. The average person understands that some people have a harder time in life because they’re female or because they have dark skin. Is it so tricky to grasp that a woman might be black or that a gay man might be disabled? Is it so hard to understand that we all have advantages and disadvantages, and that these might sometimes compound each other? The angst about privilege obscures the real point – that if you’re not a dick to people, and if you apologise when you upset someone by accident, you’ll get along just fine. Want to avoid causing accidental upset in the first place? Then, as journalists should know, there’s this thing called research.
I have no hope, I lost it a while ago and have found myself searching for it in strange places, in the FAS office, on the pages of Monster, in emigration visa forms, in my child’s face. Time and time again, letter after email thanking me for my interest or informing me that I failed to meet the criteria, another day of struggling to make ends meet and the small glimmer, that 13 will be a lucky number, that this year we will escape, that poverty is just a temporary state, that you are of worth, is scuppered by a few lines in windows on the cheapest pregnancy test I could get.
I’m pregnant, I’m in a long term relationship, I love him, and I know I would love this baby, but I can’t bring a child into this. I cannot have a baby and no job, no future, no escape. I know I should have been more careful, one mistake in 7 years, part of me is thankful, a small collection of cells reminding me that life continues outside of this daily stress, that those pills I take to make life bearable and save me from the suicidal mess I was in before are not the only thing that could bring joy. I find myself sobbing, the big loud body shaking sobs that rattle your soul, although I guess I don’t have one of those considering what I’m forced to consider.
“Don’t change too much, we like you the way you are.”
Maybe I’m snatching an insult out of the jaws of a compliment, here. I’m willing to admit that’s possible. But if I don’t like me the way I am, shouldn’t I be allowed to change as much as I deem appropriate? I don’t even want to ask how much is too much, because that implies that I care if I change “too much” for my parents’ tastes. Truth is, I don’t. They’re going to love me or not love me however much and in whatever way they decide. It’s taken me decades to realize that I don’t have control over whether or not they love and understand me. It’s not my responsibility.
I have a problem with “we like you the way you are.” The way I am is not the way I am – it’s the way they think I am. And that is a lie; that is a trap. The way they think I am is a prison cell, and I have been confined my whole life. It wasn’t until I moved away that I first breathed free air.
When we prescribe ways of thinking or feeling, failing to follow them becomes stigmatized. Not loving yourself and your body isn’t just unhealthy anymore, it’s uncool. It’s immature. I wrote once a long time ago about how a classmate told me that loving yourself is actually a prerequisite for being a good person–implying (accidentally, I hope) that not loving yourself means you’re not a good person.
Not loving yourself means you have Issues and Baggage and all of those other unsexy things. It means you just haven’t Tried Hard Enough to Love Who You Truly Are. Loving yourself and your body becomes the normative state, not an extra perk that some are able to achieve. For instance,someone wrote on Tumblr in response to an article I posted about makeup that “girls should learn to love themselves before fucking around with eyeliner.” Loving yourself is a requirement, according to this person, for something as basic as putting on makeup.
Maybe this would be fair, except for this: according to our society, we are not all equally worthy of love.